The Smithsonian magazine recently released their 20 Best Small Towns in America list. Not only was Mill Valley the only one chosen from the Bay Area, it placed in the top five, at #4. The only other town in California to make the list was Laguna Beach, which took the #17 spot.
The list was targeted towards travelers, rather than folks looking for a place to put down their roots and the primary criteria was culture.
“We think any best place worth traveling to should have one quality above others: culture…we search[ed].. .for high concentrations of museums, historic sites, botanic gardens, resident orchestras, art galleries and other cultural assets common to big cities. But we focused on towns with populations less than 25,000, so travelers could experience what might be called enlightened good times in an unhurried, charming setting.”
The Smithsonian cited Mill Valley’s enviable and picturesque location at the base of Mt. Tam and its proximity to Muir Woods, Richardson Bay and San Francisco. It gives thumbs up to the town’s long history with the music and the arts. Besides town sponsored concerts and festivals, there’s the Mill Valley Film Festival, which attracts international attention, and historic landmarks such as the Sweetwater, where many well known (and local) musicians, like Bonnie Raitt and Jerry Garcia, have played. Downtown Mill Valley is also home to a number of boutique shops, galleries, and restaurants and life is centered around the plaza in front of the Depot – the local bookstore and cafe. Runners know Mill Valley as the starting gate to the annual and extremely grueling 7.4 mile Dipsea Race.
Mill Valley is indeed a lovely small town, but as the Smithsonian mentions, its culture and beauty has attracted the wealthy. According to the magazine, it’s one of the nation’s wealthiest zip codes. Recent trends data on Redfin has the median list price of a home in Mill Valley at just under $1 million. Guess that’s the price to pay to live in a desired place…